Q: I was offered a place on an MA social work course and one of the requirements before starting is to shadow a qualified social worker for two days. I tried a local council and they refused. I was told I could ask a social worker I know personally. I asked my current employer, a London-based mental health organisation, but they couldn’t help me either. I am Criminal Records Bureau-checked and I have a degree in psychology and criminology. I have been working with vulnerable adults for over two years and I have worked alongside social workers in the past. I am quite desperate now as I won’t be able to start the course until I complete the shadow work. What can I do?
Martin Salter, a senior recruitment consultant at Sanctuary Personnel (pictured), replies:
Many MA social work courses require students to shadow a qualified social worker before they begin the course. Most students are expected to arrange this themselves. However, because of the nature of the social work profession, finding someone to shadow isn’t always that easy and you will need to give yourself plenty of time before your course start date to start looking.
Asking a local council was a good place to start, but it may be worth asking neighbouring authorities as they may be more receptive. Write a letter addressed directly to the team manager; you are more likely to get a response to this than you are from calling the council’s customer service desk.
Contacting the right person can make all the difference, so make sure you do your research. Try searching a local council’s website for a named contact in a relevant team. When contacting them, be polite but enthusiastic. Highlight your reasons for wanting the opportunity. If you are contacting a local council because you have grown up in the borough and you felt it was a natural choice to shadow a social worker in the community you can see yourself working in, make this known.
Client confidentiality may prove to be an issue, but your experience of working with vulnerable adults and being CRB-checked puts you in a good position. Make sure the person you are applying to is aware of this. Other prospective students without relevant experience would benefit from any kind of volunteering or paid work for a local authority as a way to get their foot in the door. It is also worth getting in touch with private social work organisations or charities that employ social workers such as the NSPCC, Action for Children or private fostering agencies, to see if they can help with your request.
Some prospective students may be lucky enough to know a social worker they can shadow, however, even if this is the case, they will need to check their university’s requirements. Some courses make it clear that the social worker cannot be a family member and that they must be registered, which will need to be confirmed by providing their registration number.
If you feel you have covered all options and still had no luck, don’t worry; you won’t be alone. There will be plenty of other people in your position, so make sure you keep an eye on Community Care’s forum, CareSpace, to see if anyone announces a breakthrough opportunity. If not, your university may have partnership arrangements with authorities for shadowing days for those unable to organise this before joining the course.
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
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